In his famous Supreme Court opinion on obscenity in 1964, Justice Potter Stewart wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”
That’s not to say you should leave your customers’ perceptions of your responsiveness to chance. You have to take deliberate steps to define your own standard and process of responsiveness and create metrics that enable you to measure your performance and improve your process.
Here are four steps you can take immediately to increase your responsiveness to prospects and improve your sales follow up:
1) Commit to responsiveness as a personal sales priority.
There are no good reasons not to prioritize responsiveness. Just bad excuses. It doesn’t require prep work. Just do it. Take the vow today: “My time frame for responding to every customer inquiry, question, or request for help will be immediate.”
Responsiveness requires a personal effort. Don’t fool yourself into believing that an autogenerated e-mail to a customer request is responsive. It isn’t; it only contains one of the two required elements of responsiveness -- content and speed. The key to creating sustainable sales-based differentiation is to incorporate complete responsiveness into every step of your selling process.
2) Set personal and company standards.
IBM took the right first step by creating a standard measure for responsiveness: 24 hours. I give them credit for putting a stake in the ground.
While I believe 24 hours is too long to respond to a customer question, establishing an initial metric against which to measure your responsiveness is a great start. Be sure to share your standards with customers and management. You need that additional accountability that comes from publicly committing to a specific standard of performance.
3) Measure your responsiveness.
I apologize for dragging out the old truism that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. But it’s absolutely true. If you’re going to create a metric-based expectation for responsiveness, then you must collect the data to measure. For your personal responsiveness, you can use your CRM system to track this. Or keep a manual diary for a few days to analyze exactly how sharp your responsiveness reflexes are.
4) Refine your process.
Every day that goes by, the pressure will be on you to become more responsive. The customer’s buying process is a living, breathing, changing thing. Much like the changing competitive landscape that will force IBM to keep reducing the amount of time it requires to respond to a customer, you too must continually improve your responsiveness to meet your customers’ requirements. In addition, if you blow away customers with your responsiveness, they will begin to expect it each and every time they interact with you. This third-party accountability is great motivation to keep improving.
Think about it this way: Every hour of the customer’s time that you can save in their buying process accrues to their benefit -- and to yours. You will have given them time to invest in other profit-generating activities. Therefore, make certain that you blow customers away with your responsiveness.
I’m stunned every time I respond rapidly to a customer inquiry, and the customer is shocked that I called them back at all, let alone so quickly. I try to respond to every lead or question I receive within 30 minutes of receiving it.
Finally, a helpful tip for you. When I follow up with an inbound lead, I always begin by apologizing for taking so long to respond. It makes the point. And raises the bar for all your competitors.